Illustration for article titled Budget sports cars are awesome, but the upkeep is awful.

(Please note this is in the format of a rant)It's a great time for car lovers when you can get 300+hp in an affordable package. But you need to wonder what was sacrificed in order to make said car affordable.


So my Mustang is 3 and a half years old. Gently abused but properly maintained and occasionally tracked in the summer. I am also considered by myself and my friends to be a quite masterful stick driver, being smooth and skilled at launching the car and shifting with no fuss and I also rev match all the time and can pull off even perfect smooth and seamless 6th to 3rd gear downshifts on the highway for passing or shenanigans. But I'm not saying this to boast but more to distance myself as a potential cause for the next reason this car is going to murder my wallet in the somewhat near future: The clutch.

You see, Ford, in order to make the starting price of this 305hp angry horse cost south of $23K Canadian, had to sacrifice the quality of certain components and below, are a few examples:

  1. A driveshaft that is known to catastrophically fail above 130mph. Aftermarket solution available.*
  2. Very thin paint that chips easily.
  3. Paint and metal so cheap that the bottom inside edge of the trunk lid has started to rust nicely.
  4. Rear Sway bar bushings so terribly cheap I ate through two whole factory sway bar replacement kits in the first two years after which I decided "f*ck it" and replaced the front and rear sway bars with an aftermarket kit.*
  5. Front lower control arm bushings that last less than a year before they start creaking like a rusty ship anytime you go over a speedbump. Gotta replace that again but I'm past the bumper to bumper warranty so it will be out of pocket. No aftermarket lower control arm kits available as of this writing.*
  6. a waterpump that blows after 40k miles.*
  7. A low-rent shifter bracket that is made of cheap rubber and litterally zip-tied to the shifter assembly. This causes issues like the shifter refusing to slide into gear completely, especially third, or going into gears 1 and 2 only half way. Aftermarket solution available.*

*= Asterix denotes a widely known issue that is well documented amongst owner circles and on online forums. None of these issues have true solutions from Ford other than replacing with parts that share the same inherent weakness that will fail again. Some aftermarket solutions are available but not for everything.

And, to add to the list, I discover that there are documented clutch issues with these Mustangs. Specifically, the factory clutch slave cylinder/throwout bearing assembly is a piece of crap and known to be problematic which ends up causing a lot of weird shifting issues onto itself as well as weird clutch behavior and premature wear.


My symptoms? Clutch grips fine even with the high-gear+low-rpm+full-throttle test. But it will randomly start to smell like I just burned it to death while I am either driving in town or just cruising on the highway. Also, clocking in at 51000 miles, clutch pedal "sweet spot" is much later in pedal travel then it used to be. Brand new it was smack in the mid-point of travel and now it starts to grab when the pedal is 3/4 released. Another interesting thing I noticed that I have never felt in any other car I've driven and that has been going on for a long time with this car: Clutch pedal to the floor, if you slide the shifter from neutral to first gear on a flat surface, you will feel (and even see) the car nudge. This is also, apparently, related to said slave cylinder/TOB. OHH Yeah, I've noticed this a few times, mostly in cold weather, revving the engine, be it with the gear selector in a gear with the clutch depressed or in neutral, you will hear a lot and I mean a LOT of meshing noise coming from the transmission (though the car doesn't budge).

Anyways, I can't 100% certify that this is 100% the cause of my woes, I'm not a mechanic, but the evidence seems compelling, though I admit I could be wrong.


But so far it is looking like my clutch is slowly degrading because of this which means an expensive repair is in my future. Sure, I could try to claim it under warranty if the dealership doesn't pull the "everything seems normal" routine on me and they could just decide that the clutch is a consumable so no warranty coverage for that. Even if that proved fruitful, I would still be stuck with the same, unimproved, craptastic factory parts that were created for the sole purpose of lowering the price tag of the vehicle. Which means they will fail again. I want something more... permanent. So off to the aftermarket solutions!

  1. First comes a Exedy Hydraulic throwout bearing and slave cylinder kit. You know, to not prematurely kill my next clutch. 180$
  2. Clutch comes next. Since I'll be replacing the clutch, may as well get an aftermarket upgrade which will serve double-duty as extra insurance for my planned future performance upgrades. So, I want a stronger clutch but I also want something that will still be fairly comfortably streetable. Spec Stage 1 clutch (rated for 550 ft-lbs) will do. 280$ +10$ clutch alignment tool.
  3. Normally, when replacing a clutch, you need to resurface the flywheel to ensure a flat, even mating surface for best performance and to maximize the life of your new clutch. Problem is, the 3.7L Mustangs are fitted with a dual-mass flywheel. You can't resurface them so that means you have to replace the entire thing unless by sheer luck it's still perfect, which it won't be. DM flywheels are expensive and they're heavy so screw that: Spec Billet Aluminum flywheel. 490$
  4. Lastly, since we're in the business of overkilling a problem thatn shouldn't be a problem, may as well go all out and get a stainless steel braided clutch line. 60$
  5. Shipping? 188$, because I'm in Canada and thus don't qualify for free shipping from my american distributor of choice.

So, about 1200$ in all to replace a clutch and related parts, plus labor. Add to the fact that I paid 400$ to replace the sway bars because they sucked and the fact that I need to spend another 1200$ for sure next spring to replace my now-worthless summer "performance" tires because sticky rubber means shorter tire lifespan(this will be my 3rd set of summer tires, I also had a set of winter tires, also 1200$, which lasted only two winters). That's quite a bit of extra expenses that you wouldn't normally see(with the exception of tires, though with a much lower frequency at a much lower cost) on a wholesome Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

So the lesson today, kids, is that there's no such thing as a budget sports car. Sports cars, especially when driven as such, have extra upkeep expenses that are way beyond what you would experience with a similarly priced "regular" car. Expenses like performance rubber that costs more and has a much shorter lifespan, as well as fuel (often premium) which will be sipped at a much higher rate. And if your sports car so happens to be budget priced, keep in mind that usually means there will be corners that will have been cut and you will end up paying, one way or another, for maintenance/upgrades related to these accountant-inspired shortcomings.


It all truly sucks, until you drive your little monster and all the worries melt away because of all the fun you're having. Truly, a love/hate relationship.

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